Tuesday, February 1, 2011

RECIPE: Magic Sauce: Ginger Scallion Oil

My only memories of enjoying this sauce outside of my own making it is when my family in New York went to Chinatown or Flushing. We would go enjoy some dim sum and then shop in the markets for the week's provisions. Almost every shop sells their own house-made roast pork, fried pig, roasted duck, and soy sauce chicken (jiang you ji). It's an experience of smells with funky fish at one end of the store and savory meats at the other. We'd always bring home some roast pork and soy sauce chicken and it's the chicken that always came with ginger scallion oil.

Soy sauce chicken is a deceptively humble name for something that is reliably delicious and always available at the Chinese market (folks who don't like bones, stay away). A whole chicken is poached in a bath of soy, sugar(s) and spices to yield moist meat with a subtle, complex sweetness, fragrant with anise and peppercorns- it pairs divinely with the ginger scallion oil, which my friends in Atlanta and I have endearingly called "magic sauce."

ginger, scallions, salt: before being hit with hot oil

It is, in fact, an oil, so it's greasy, but don't let that stop you from enjoying this with fatty foods. When married, the brightness of the ingredients really shines and complements many meats. I don't think I've ever hosted a party or dinner where any of the sauce was left- and I make a lot. Some recipes will also include some combination of soy, mirin or vinegar, but this recipe more closely resonates with my childhood memories and I think its simplicity is key. Peanut oil is ideal, but expensive, so to be perfectly honest, I often default to canola oil just because it's cheap and in my pantry.

  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger (ideally "microplaned")
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, both green and white parts
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Combine the ginger, scallions and salt in a heat resistant bowl, like Pyrex. Place the bowl on a kitchen towel at least two times the footprint of the bowl. This will prevent hot splashing oil from damaging any tabletops.

In a small saucepan, heat the oil on high heat until the surface begins to shimmer or when a small sliver of scallion dropped in the oil begins to form bubbles. Be very, very careful at this point.  Using an oven mit (you want to protect your hands, wrists and forearms), pour the oil directly from the saucepan over the ingredients in the bowl. It will sizzle and splash! Exciting.

And delicious. Let it cool before serving.

Goes great with my Poached Chicken. Recipe [here].

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